Sociology: Why?

It's very noticeable that amongst sociologists, many in Europe make themselves losers, but that the 'winners' in the US can sometimes be even more destructive. In Europe, we get a sort of sober imitation--and therefore no imitation at all--of Arthur Koestler and Jean-Paul Sartre, usually dressed as either a child or a fat lady, blessedly convinced that their view of social construction means they never, ever, have to engage with the very important and detailed case studies that they play like mental i-pods.

Elevating Spector & Kitsuse models someone found in the ruins of the Maplin Sands project into an explanation of why they must be completely independent and why any social problem is just a 'narrative about grievances' from some group or other, they can go on serenely living off my money (actually an overdraft named Ozymandias) and encouraging numpties to question any proper sort of morality or sense. It's a kind of ultimate narcissism, and when done well is enjoyable, but only in a comical way.

Travel over the pond, though, and some of the most serious players of recent years could be thought of as 'objectivist' sociologists, altering policy on the basis of the study of social problems, not narratives, with numbers and policy solutions. It's all hustle of course, but there is a long American line from Myrdal and Mills through to Fukuyama, which occasionally goes right and sometimes even shades into--dare I write it?--the heights of intellectual history like what I am interested in, innit? And yes, before you write in, I know that Gunnar Myrdal was really an economist, but he went off on a sociological frolic. As I understand it, he wanted to 'do' women, but who couldn't get the cash so he did 'race' instead. With great results, I might add.

Ultimately, though, sociology is even sillier than economics, which at least enables one to impose a conceptual matrix that can be turned into cash and networks of influence so long as one does the calculus. Economics is at it too, often though--offering neat heuristics so that the bulk of people can trundle along without ever really challenging themselves or the badness of much of the world. As coping mechanisms go, I have to say I'd prefer a good book and a French 75, or at a push a King's Peg with a fine cigar, but, well, you can't have everything.

I'm still carrying painkillers, reader. I think that probably explains this post. If you do see anything about pineapple jamaliyahs in subsequent posts near in time to this one, you'll know that I've taken too many. You know, my grandfather used to ramble like this, except he would occasionally spit some tobacco, have a sneaky whiskey, and mutter 'yer arse' at the TV or talk about how it was all coming to trouble to the rear (a Donegal turn of phrase meaning that time steals up on you from behind). As I age and my knees go, I am going the same way, though at least I can still pride myself on a capacity to distinguish between Barry Humphries and a woman, which he could not.

In the meantime, my girlfriend is writing about sociology....


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